Do you ever feel like your loved ones spend more time with their electronic devices of choice than with you? How has technology interfered with your relationships? A recent study by Sarah Coyne, Ph.D., professor at Brigham Young University found that everyday interactions are negatively impacted by the use of technology. Coyne and graduate student Brandon McDaniel surveyed 143 women about the daily intrusions caused by smartphones, tablets, and computers. Approximately 70% of the women surveyed acknowledged that technology use interfered sometimes or often with their face-to-face interactions. The women also reported more conflict, lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms, and lower life satisfaction overall. The researchers concluded that relationships can really suffer when a person’s use of a technology interrupts face to face contacts, even if these interruptions are unintentional.
We are drawn to technology for many reasons including increasing our knowledge, connection or entertainment. The availability and accessibility of technology make it even more difficult to avoid. Regardless of the reasons for us to be focused on technology, we often are unaware of the consequences and impact on our relationships. And let’s face it, much of the knowledge we obtain is useless information. Not to say that technology has no value, but there are diminishing returns over extended periods of web surfing or Facebook following. Why can’t we set limits on ourselves? Or would we rather engage with a screen over a person?
Let’s assume you have a desire to be more connected to people, so what can be done to make that happen? Set a limit of time that you spend in front of a screen after work hours and set the boundary with others. In some cases it may require you to turn off your phone during a meal or when you’re engaged in a conversation with your spouse. Our children also learn from us so be aware of what model you’re displaying to them about the importance of face-to-face interactions and limits on technology time. Do you ever take a technology break? When we’re intentional about personal connection we are more inclined to initiate and nurture relationships by carving out time for activities and conversations. Lastly, focus on listening with your ears, not your mouth and avoid multi-tasking when engaged in conversation. Value people over things; the rewards are much greater.